Ex-Venezuela vice president charged with violating United States sanctions

Venezuela's Vice President Tareck El Aissami attends the swearing-in ceremony of the new board of directors of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA in Caracas Venezuela

Justice Dept Charges Ex Venezuela Vice President for Violating Sanctions Regime REUTERS Marco Bello

Former Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami has been criminally charged in NY federal court, accused of using his office to aid worldwide drug traffickers. El Aissami, Venezuela's former vice president, and Lopez Bello aren't in US custody.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of NY has charged former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck Zaidan El Aissami Maddah for violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act and US-imposed sanctions, the Department of Justice said in a press release on Friday.

Prosecutors claim Tareck Zaidan el Aissami Maddah and his business partner, Samark Lopez Bello, broke the law by taking the flights, including one on February 23 from Russian Federation to Venezuela.

Two U.S. citizens, Victor Mones Caro and Alejandro Miguel Leon Maal, used U.S. companies to provide the Venezuelans with charter flights, allowing them to travel from their home country to Russia, Turkey and the Dominican Republic, according to prosecutors.

Even before the charges announced Friday, the USA has accused El Aissami of playing a major role in global drug trafficking, a charge he denies.

El Aissami, who is now Venezuela's Minister of Industry and National Production, allegedly used his position of power to engage in global drug trafficking, according to the release.

Venezuela's communications minister declined to comment.

In 2017, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) introduced sanctions against former Venezuelan Vice President under drug trafficking regulations.

As a result, El Aissami and Lopez Bello, both 44, were each already labeled a "Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker" under the Kingpin Act.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan said, "Enforcement of these sanctions is critical to the national security interests of the U.S".

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